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Human vs Machine

Guess Who's Better at Figuring Out Song Lyrics?

You’ve heard of mondegreens before - they’re those strange, funny misunderstandings of song lyrics, like “There’s a bathroom on the right.” So we were thinking: What would happen if an expert transcriptionist heard a song for the first time? How accurately would they hear the lyrics? Would they come up with any hilarious mondegreens?

Even better, what would happen if we had IBM Watson use his speech to text powers to “listen” to the same songs?

Now, this is just for fun, and not exactly scientifically rigorous, but we did do our best to make it as even a match as possible. First, we found a capella version of each song, so Watson wouldn’t be confused by the rest of the music.

We also asked the transcriptionist to pinky-swear that they’d never header these songs before, and that they wouldn’t use Google to double-check their work.

Here’s what happened...
  • Taylor Swift
  • Elton John
  • Van Halen
  • Brad Paisley
IBM Watson
IBM Watson Robot
VerbalInk Transcriptionist
Taylor Swift Illustration
Lyrics Challenge 1Taylor Swift “I knew you were trouble”
IBM Watson

Once upon a time a few mistakes i go I was then you say. You got me a loon. You’ve gotten me


Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago, I was in your sights. You got me alone. You found me. You found me. You found me.

Van Halen
Lyrics Challenge 2Van Halen “Runnin’ with the devil”
IBM Watson

I live my life lacked is. And no i’ve got. i.The startled me truck bed though barlow You have some live n. n... Please start.


I live my life like there’s no tomorrow, And all I’ve got, I had to steal. Least I don’t need to beg or borrow. Yes, I’m living at a pace that kills.

Elton John Illustration
Lyrics Challenge 3Elton John “Tiny Dancer”
IBM Watson

“Blue jean bear bear yeah.
lazy lately yeah. Seamstress for the man


“Blue jean lady, LA baby. Seamstress for the band.”

Brad Paisley
Lyrics Challenge 4Brad Paisley “Ticks”
IBM Watson

Hey every time you take a sip And this smoky atmosphere You press at bottom to your live in peace And I wish I was you will be here.


Every time you take a sip In this smoky atmosphere, You press that bottle to your lips, And I wish I was your beer.


Final Thoughts

We’d hope to get some awesome mondegreens out of this
experiment, but the transcriptionists were excellent at their
jobs and Watson was a little too random - guess we won’t be
inviting him to karaoke for a long time!

IBM Watson
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References and Notes

IBM Watson is a trademark of international Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. “I Knew You Were Trouble” lyrics © Sony / ATV Music Publishing LLC. Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.. Songwriters: Taylor Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth. “Tiny Dancer” lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group. Songwriters: Elton John, Bernie Taupin. “Ticks” lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management US, LLC. Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC. Songwriters: Kelley Lovelace, Brad Paisley, Tim Owens.

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